Pats explode into ‘win’ column with 47-25 victory over North Laurel
STANFORD — Tanner McAninch had a big smile across his face as he was congratulated by Lincoln County football fans while leaving the field at Death Valley Stadium Friday night.
And why not. The senior quarterback had just scored five touchdowns as Lincoln ended its season-opening skid, including three within a span of 54 seconds late in the fourth quarter to turn a narrow Patriot lead into a 47-25 romp on visiting North Laurel.
“This is fun! This is fun!” Lincoln coach Travis Leffew said after the Patriots’ first win of the season. “Watching these guys tonight as a coach, it gives you the cold chills and makes you tear up a little bit. This is the team I’ve talked about. This is the team that we have. This is the team that should be sitting at 4-0. Not taking anything away from the teams that beat us. They did a tremendous job of game planning and got us. This is a team that’s hungry now. They’ve got their first win.”
Lincoln clung to a 27-25 lead with 7:11 to play after a failed two-point conversion run by North Laurel following a 35-yard touchdown by Jose Rodriguez. The Patriots took over at their own 35 then began methodically driving toward the end zone. A late hit penalty on North on 4th-and-8 kept the drive alive, Lane Slone rushed for two first downs and Tra Carey for one to help advance the ball before McAninch capped off the 10-play drive with a 1-yard push up the middle to make it 33-25 with 1:19 to go.
Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, McAninch picked off North Laurel quarterback Cole McWhorter and returned the ball 69 yards for a score and a 39-25 advantage with 40.5 seconds left.
And finally, just 15 seconds after his interception return, McAninch stripped the ball away from Rodriguez after a pass and ran 45 yards to the goal line for the 47-25 final.
“That just shows the type of playmaker he is,” Leffew said of McAninch. “Tremendous team leader. He worries nothing about himself. He always puts the team first and it shows in the way he plays. He just did a tremendous job there at the end.”
McAninch finished with 97 yards rushing on 10 carries.
North Laurel (3-2) had averaged 288 yards rushing in its three wins while allowing just 73.6 rushing yards. The Jaguars didn’t make either average against the Patriots.
Lincoln (1-4) ran 55 plays from the line of scrimmage for 299 yards offense against North Laurel, with the bulk of those yards, 263, coming on 49 rushing plays. The Patriot defense did hold the Jaguars below their average, giving up just 246 rushing yards.
“It was a great team win,” Leffew said. “The line came out and blocked tonight. We ran the ball hard. Defensively, we played like we should’ve. It was an all-together team win. This is who we are. I think it starts tonight with that.”
Junior back Tra Carey barreled his way through the North Laurel defense to lead Lincoln’s ground game, getting 125 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries.
Carey tallied his first touchdown on the first possession of the game. Josh Salyer gave Lincoln a short field by taking the opening kickoff all the way down to the North Laurel 34. Eight plays later, Carey powered his way in from the 4-yard line for a 6-0 lead.
North Laurel also hit pay dirt on its opening drive, going 65 yards in seven plays. Rodriguez, who finished with 52 yards on 10 carries, handled the ball for most of the possession before McWhorter, who had 98 yards on 16 carries, zig-zagged his way 32 yards to the end zone. The PAT by Jansen Lunsford edged the Jaguars ahead 7-6 with 4:24 left in the first quarter.
The one-point margin stood until just before the half.
Sizemore, who rushed for 94 yards on nine carries for the Jaguars, had first-down runs of 47 yards and 11 yards, and pulled in an 18-yard pass from McWhorter before going in from the 8-yard line for a score and a 13-6 advantage with 1:45 to go in the first half.
Lincoln needed only one play to answer the score. The Patriots took possession on their own 35 and, unable to find a pass as he rolled left, McAninch cut right and ran through defenders for the 65-yard touchdown and a 13-13 tie at the break.
Lunsford attempted to nose North back on top with a 32-yard field goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the first half, but the kick was wide.
North Laurel got the ball to start the second half, however, the possession would be short-lived. Sizemore fumbled the ball on the second play of the drive and Lincoln’s Emmanuel Beazley was there for the recovery to set the Pats up at the North 48. Eight plays after the fumble, McAninch scored from the 2-yard line to put Lincoln on top to stay. Emma Kaiser’s point after kick, one of five for the game, put the Pats up 20-13 midway through the third quarter.
But North wouldn’t go away, and the team’s proceeded to trade scores.
Sizemore answered McAninch’s 2-yard score with his own 2-yard TD to cut the margin back to one, 20-19. A bobbled snap on the point after attempt cost the Jaguars a shot at the tie. Early in the fourth quarter, Lincoln had extended its lead back to 27-19 with Carey using a spin move to escape would-be tacklers for a 6-yard score and Kaiser adding the kick.
And again North answered. On the fifth play of the Jaguars’ next possession, Rodriguez cut left then straight up the middle on a 35-yard touchdown run to make it a 27-25 ballgame. North went for the tie on the conversion but was stopped short of the goal line.
That was as close as North Laurel would get with McAninch putting the game out of reach with his late scores
“We beat a good football team tonight,” said Leffew. “They are a very physical team. I said in the pre-game radio show that it was going to take physicality and we showed physicality against a very physical football team that’s in our region. They play in our sister district, who we’ll have to meet it the playoffs. We just came out and did a great job of executing and playing physical.”
“It was just fun and exciting to watch. The fans got behind us. The team was all in it. A great team win,” he added. “Now we go play a tough Boyle County team.”
1 2 3 4 Final
North Laurel 7 6 6 6 – 25
Lincoln Co. 6 7 7 27 – 47
Lincoln: 8:12 – Tra Carey 4-yard run (kick blocked).
North Laurel: 4:24 – Cole McWhorter 32-yard run (Jansen Lunsford kick).
North Laurel: 1:45 – Matt Sizemore 8-yard run ( kick failed).
Lincoln: 1:26 – Tanner McAninch 65-yard run (Emma Kaiser kick).
Lincoln: 6:43- McAninch 2-yard run (Kaiser kick).
North Laurel: 2:12 – McWhorter 2-yard run (run failed).
Lincoln: 9:27 – Carey 6-yard run (Kaiser kick).
North Laurel: 7:11 – Jose Rodriguez 35-yard run (run failed).
Lincoln: 1:19 – McAninch 1-yard run (kick failed).
Lincoln: :40.5 – McAninch 69-yard interception return (Kaiser kick).
Lincoln: :25.4 – McAninch 45-yard fumble return (Kaiser kick).
First Downs 14 17
Rushing Plays 36 49 yards gained 246 263
Pass Attempts 15 6 completions 8 2 yards 99 36 touchdowns 0 0
interceptions 1 1
Total Plays 51 55 total offense 345 299
Fumbles/lost 2/2 0/0
Penalties/yards 10/73 5/50
Cole McWhorter: 16 carries, 98 yards, 2TDs.
Matt Sizemore: 9 carries, 94 yards, TD.
Jose Rodriguez: 10 carries, 52 yards, TD.
Nick Broughton: 1 carry, 2 yards.
Tra Carey: 32 carries, 125 yards, 2 TDs.
Tanner McAninch: 10 carries, 97 yards, 3TDs.
Lane Slone: 6 carries, 40 yards.
Carlos Nunez: 1 carry, 1 yard.
Passing: Cole McWhorter, 8-15-1, 99 yards.
Receiving: Matt Sizemore, 3-49 yards; Dalton Smith, 2-34; Nick Broughton, 2-18; Jose Rodriguez, 1-6.
Passing: Tanner McAninch, 2-6-1, 36 yards.
Receiving: Carlos Nunez, 1-20 yards; Sawyer Carrier, 1-16.